Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Nick & Tom's

Review 7 @ Stop #20
Nick & Tom’s
5774 Bridgetown Rd

Nick and Tom’s is a popular Bridgetown restaurant located in an old white house with a colorful past as a stage house and an alleged house with a madam. Its loyal customers are accustomed to a broad menu, friendly service, and a pleasant atmosphere. Two friends joined the Cincinnati Burger Guys on this day with hopes of being enlightened about our search for burger nirvana.

Four of us ordered the All-American Burger ($6.25) and one indulged with the Nick & Tom Burger topped with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos ($6.75) All were half-pound, char-broiled burgers served on a toasted Kaiser bun, and accompanied by potato chips and a pickle spear. Using a good bun with some attention is always a hit with the CBG and serving the condiments on the side was a surprise bonus.

Upon serving, the team glared at the visual oddity. Bucky wonders about the anomaly of a square peg fitting in a round hole. Freddie conjures images of a pre-made, frozen patty and intern Wolfy analyzes the effect of spreading a half pound of meat over a larger surface area as opposed to containing the meat in a thick, more concentrated shape. All of this before a single bite!

Bucky, Freddie, and Wolfy each ordered a different cooking level and the kitchen successfully delivered. All agreed the meat lacked seasoning, but Wolfy noted the use of high quality beef. Readers should note that char-broiled and char-grilled methods deliver different tastes, so know your preference.

During the research phase of this project, long-time West Siders looked confused when asked to identify a good burger place on that side of town. “Hey, the West Side is about double deckers and chili.” The Cincinnati Burger Guys are neutral in the West Side-East Side debate as each of us moved to Cincinnati as adults. Although tasty burgers may be more of an East Side preference, this team is not willing to give up the search on that side of town – especially at the places recommended by faithful readers.

Bucky (4) was more impressed than Freddie (2). Nonetheless, go and enjoy Nick & Tom’s – but get your quality burger elsewhere.

CBG Points: 3.0
Rating: Low Average

Next Review: Friendly Stop

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mingles Sports Bar and Grill

Review #6 @ Stop #7
Mingles Sports Bar and Grill
1296 Highway 28 (Mt. Repose)

Note: Since posting this review, Mingles has been sold twice and has changed it's name to the Miami Township Tavern and then George's Bar and Grill. This review is not meant to endorse or criticize current ownership, but to only inform readers of the situation. As of late December 2006, another name change: now Bad Habitz.

A Clermont County informant praised this place so the Cincinnati Burger Guys hit the road. Mingles Sports Bar and Grill is a modern bar – a wide-open room with a long bar down the center, pool tables and video games on one side – tables and space for a band on the other. The CBG team went during lunch. Without the presence of the mechanical bull, the monitors showing ESPN served as entertainment.

The $4.95 burger was large, served on a slightly squished, toasted Kaiser bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion, plus accompanied by Saratoga chips and a pickle spear. Slightly squished, lightly seasoned, toasted bun scores points with Bucky! The meat was moist and noticeably seasoned which impresses Freddie! This was such an outstanding find Freddie did a return solo visit to double check his senses.

Mingles serves a burger that burger lovers truly desire. This is a prime example of how adding a few small details improve the product. A friend of Freddie’s once said, “It doesn’t take that much more to be first class.” Freddie discovered the spice mixture added to the Mingles burger, but telling everyone would spoil the secret on Route 28.

Bucky and Freddie proudly give Mingles their highest honor. Congratulations on receiving the first Exceptional Burger Award from the Cincinnati Burger Guys! So when you go to Mingle’s, mention the Cincinnati Burger Guys.

Points: 9.5
CBG Rating: Exceptional

Next review: Nick & Tom’s

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Quatman's Cafe

Review #5 @ Stop #5
Quatman’s Café
2434 Quatman Ave (Norwood)

No doubt about it – Quatman’s Café is a Cincinnati institution. This neighborhood tavern with wood booths, basic tables with the red and white checkered table cloths, and a wood bar area on one side is a very popular lunch spot for many people.

Another no doubter – These burgers (served with onions, pickles, and potato chips) are large and reasonably priced ($3.75). Many proclaim that Quatman’s burgers put Zip’s burgers to shame. The Burger Guys agree, but so what? That’s like the Reds proclaiming the pennant after a fifth place finish ahead of the Pirates. The bottom line: the Cincinnati Burger Guys are raising the bar!

Because of their high number of lunchtime diners, Quatman’s is known for its fast service; however, this allowed the team to notice a glaring mistake. Although the orders were placed at the same time, one arrived within minutes signaling advance preparation. There’s no way fresh meat cooks that fast. To top off the situation, the second order arrived minutes later and seemed warmer than the first. Since Freddie had been there several times before, this event was new.

Nothing fancy here: No distinguishing seasoning in the meat, no special bun or treatment – Just a thick, juicy, but basic burger served on a standard bun in a neighborhood setting. Although it may be smokier than some prefer, we highly recommend the tavern ambiance and the tradition, so arrive early for lunch; but, better burgers exist in the area.

Points: 4.5
CBG Rating: Average

Next Review: The first-ever award for burger excellence!

PS: We dedicate this review to PTS on this special day.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Zip's Cafe

Review #4: @ Stop #1
Zip’s Café
1036 Delta Ave.

Almost everyone has heard about Zip’s Café and their reputation for great burgers. Because of the repeated proclamations from their faithful, this is the place where the Cincinnati Burger Guys started their journey. In order to verify the initial impressions, Bucky and Freddie returned to Zip’s after tasting 15 other burgers.

No one can question Zip’s long-standing reputation and tradition. For some reason, their loyal Zippodeedodads rave about a small, $3.25 burger that lacks flavor and slips around an average bun. Is it all about the side of potato chips? Both Bucky and Freddie prefer thicker burgers. Bucky also seeks complete flavor in a sandwich while Freddie insists on flavorful meat. The team has not sampled the Zip’s Girth Burger and probably should, but a return trip may take some time to schedule.

Anyone receiving a recommendation about the Zip’s Burger should exercise caution and know what they expect in a burger. There’s no doubt that the rustic look and quaint feel in Mt. Lookout is a wonderful setting. Just try something else on the menu and get your quality burger elsewhere.

Points: 2.5
CBG Rating: Mundane

Next Review: Another Cincinnati tradition: Quatman’s

Next-Day PS: Upon seeing its picture in the CinWeekly Dining Guide, the Girth Burger is a Zip's Burger with cheese stacked on a mett.

A Special Note

A special thanks to Jim Knippenberg (Cincinnati Enquirer), Jan Perry (Cincinnati Post) and Scott Sloan (700-WLW) for their support on our little venture. We appreciate the many e-mails with kind words, best wishes, encouragement, recommendations, and humor. We’re already visited the Silver Spring House, Arthur’s, Zip’s, and Quatman’s and will publish their reviews in time. Sorry, but we don’t review national/regional chains as Hamburger Mary’s, Champs, Red Robin, and Red Lobster. For the road warriors, we received travel tips for Stanich’s (Portland, OR) and the Brick Alley Pub (Newport, RI).

The alphabetical list below includes establishments we have not visited, but are reader recommendations. Although we may go to many of them in time, we want to share this list with you so you can begin your own search – plus we will appreciate your review to us! Heck, we may even post some of your opinions in special “Readers Sound Off” editions (of course with your permission and names excluded).
Anderson Township Pub (Anderson)
Andy’s Café (Carthage)
Avari Deli and Bistro (Blue Ash)
Bierhaus House (Miamitown)
Blue Ash Chili (Blue Ash)
Brew House (Walnut Hills)
Chef C’s (Galbraith)
Clough Crossing (Anderson)
Cricket Lounge (Downtown)
Family Billiards (Owenton, KY)
Gabby’s Café (Wyoming)
Glendale Pub (Glendale)
Greyhound Tavern (Ft. Mitchell)
Habit’s (Oakley)
Herb & Thelma’s (Covington)
Homestead (Mariemont)
Indian Mound (Norwood)
Main Street Café (Newtown)
McCauly’s Pub (Fields-Ertel)
Montgomery Towne Tavern (Montgomery Rd @ I-275)
915 Pub and Grill (Ft. Thomas)
Old Timber Inn (Spring Grove Ave.)
Paxton’s Grill (Loveland)
Price Hill Chili (Price Hill)
Rod’s Capricorn Inn (near Wilmington)
Quarter Bistro (Mariemont)
Red’s Deli (Ross Township)
Salem Gardens (Anderson)
Sky Gallery (Lunken Airport)
Sorrento’s (Reading)
Stonelick Hills Golf Club (Clermont Co.)
The Works (Loveland)
Toot’s (Deerfield Township)
Walt’s Hitching Post (Ft. Wright)
Willie’s (Deerfield Township location)
Zola’s (Covington)

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